Friday, April 16, 2010

Birds Of A Feather - Jacqueline Winspear

The spirited heroine of Maisie Dobbs (Soho, 2003) is back to solve another puzzle in post-World War I London. Having been trained by a master detective, the former serving girl now a Cambridge graduate is hired by grocery magnate Joseph Waite to find his wayward daughter, Charlotte. What begins as a simple missing-person case evolves into the investigation of three murders, all of young women who were friends during the war. Charlotte may be the next target. Chock-full of period details such as how to start a 1920s-era MG, what to buy at the grocer's, what to wear in the country, soup kitchens, and heroin use, the novel follows Maisie's progress as she uses detection, psychology, and even yogalike centering to clear her mind. There is much substance to this mystery, which mines the situations brought about by the horrors of the war–both on the front and at home, and its still simmering aftermath–plus a hint of romance and the beginning resolution of two father-daughter rifts.

Birds of a Feather is the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Set after WWI Maisie is a young girl of the working class who had the fortune of being protected and educated by the Lady her father worked for. After the war she decides to become a private detective following in the footsteps of her mentor, Maurice Blanc.

In this second installment of the series Maisie is hired by Joseph Waite, a self made millionaire, to find his missing daughter Charlotte. Joseph seems a hard man only interested in the business and in keeping his daughter in line and, from what Maisie finds out, Charlotte was a deeply troubled and unhappy woman. When she tries to find out more about Charlotte she discovers that her school friends are being murdered and that the reasons behind Charlotte's actions may be connected to what is happening to them.

I really like Maisie has a heroine, she is nice and sensible, sometimes too perfect, but she is an interesting character and the series provides a very interesting glimpse of the life after WWI and how the war affected both the high and lower classes. I have a bit of trouble believing the paranormal side of Maisie's investigations but that is really the only down side. In this particular story I really liked how the mystery developed, I was kept intrigued and in suspense till the last page. I also liked that the motivations were so well connected to the period; I learned quite a few things.

I also enjoyed revisiting the characters we got to know in the first book, like Lady Rowan, Maurice, Maisie's father and Billy. Maisie still visits Simon, her former fiancé who was wounded in the war and that now lives in a hospital unaware of the reality around him but Winspear seems decided to give her a new love interest in this story. Although love triangles are not a favourite with me this might make her more human as Maisie is usually too emotionally contained.

Looking forward to the next book now...

Grade: 4/5

This is my J entry for The Alphabet in Historical Challenge


  1. Wasn't it interesting (and scary) that the women used to pin feathers on men's lapels, and basically telling them that they were cowards.

    The series only gets better... :D

    Good for you! I have yet to post my "I", and I haven't the foggiest on what to read for "J".

  2. I have an omnibus edition of both this and the first in the series patiently awaiting its turn on my shelves, and now I'm dying to get to it! The post WWI setting really appeals to me.

  3. Leya,
    Scary indeed, what were they thinking? :-S

    I hope you like it as much as I did. It's a period that I wasn't much interested about in the beginning but the more I read the more curious I am...

  4. I haven't heard of this series before but it sounds interesting.

  5. It really is Cat, I hope you try it. :-)

  6. Leya and Ana, I have read about the business of pinning feathers before. That is horrific, isn't it?

    This does sound like a good historical novel, though it does sound like the paranormal investigations don't quite fit.

  7. Hey Steph,
    horrific is the word for it I think.

    Regarding the paranormal that's what I thought but it's not a big part of it so I can still enjoy the story.


I love to chat about books and stuff and I would love to hear from like minded readers. Please do leave me a comment :-)


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